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​Report shines light on sexual assault at universities

Graphic: Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins at the launch of the report

The Commission has released a landmark report on the nature and extent of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has released a landmark report on the nature and extent of sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities.

The data in the Change the Course report is based on a national survey completed by more than 30,000 university students across all 39 Australian universities. All of these universities – through the peak body, Universities Australia – committed to this work.

"The unavoidable conclusion of the data we have gathered is that incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment are occurring at unacceptable rates at Australian universities," said Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins.

"More than 1,800 people made submissions to the Commission, sharing their stories about the way their lives, studies and mental health have been impacted by their experiences."

Change the Course shows that sexual assault and sexual harassment are occurring to varying degrees across most areas of university life.

"Almost a third of sexual harassment reported in the survey occurred on university grounds or in teaching spaces, while one in five of those who were sexually assaulted said that this occurred at a university or residence social event," said Commissioner Jenkins.

Across all university settings, the Commission found that women were three times as likely as men to be sexually assaulted in 2015 or 2016 and almost twice as likely to have been sexually harassed in a university setting in 2016.

Commissioner Jenkins said the report also includes important findings on high rates of sexual assault and sexual harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse students.

The Commission's research revealed that most students who were sexually assaulted or sexually harassed at university in 2015 and 2016 did not make a formal report or complaint to their university.

"Only 6% of students surveyed thought their university was currently doing enough to provide clear direction on procedures and support services," said Commissioner Jenkins. "Only 4% thought this was the case in relation to sexual assault."

The report includes nine recommendations on areas for action and reform: eight are directed at universities and one is aimed at university colleges.

"The fact that all 39 universities committed to the National Survey is a positive indication of their desire to take action in response to this report," said Commissioner Jenkins.

Change the Course: National report on sexual assault and sexual harassment at Australian universities is available at: www.humanrights.gov.au/universityreport.

Date: 1 August 2017

Source Australian Human Rights Commission


Image credits

  1. Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins at the launch of the report - Australian Human Rights Commission